“The One” Awards

Once a year the Laurel Main Street organization honors members of our downtown community for their commitment to the Main Street cause and their dedication to our community with “The One” Awards.  The awards were named for a phrase that pops up again and again during brainstorming or event planning sessions: “Those who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of THE ONEs who are doing it!”  On April 26th, we celebrated the dreamers, the doers, and THE ONES whose desire to leave things better than they found it is evident in all their pursuits.

This year, we enjoyed a beautiful evening at the home of LMS board members, Mallorie & Jim Rasberry.  Attendees enjoyed perfect spring weather, great food, and fellowship with those who share their affinity for downtown Laurel.  Awards were created by local calligrapher and artist Jade Yoder of Paper Studio and were presented by Laurel Main Street President, Lew Yoder.

Downtown Business of the Year

Chad & Terri Knight, owners of The Knight Butcher, were named Downtown Business of the Year.  They are THE ONES who have completed such a tremendous amount of work on their storefront and have also worked tirelessly to create an engaging and inviting atmosphere.  Their work outside their store, in the downtown community, is widespread as well, and we appreciate their dedication to downtown Laurel and Laurel Main Street!  Whether they’re rallying downtown merchants, creating secret Easter egg hunts downtown, or hosting Laurelpalooza, the Knights have shown their love for downtown knows no bounds.

THE ONE Award

THE ONE Award is presented each year to Laurel Main Street’s top volunteer.  This year, James & Nece Hill and Agape Church received THE ONE Award.  The Hills began their service to downtown Laurel ten years ago when few others had a vision of what downtown Laurel could be.  They renovated the former Woolworth’s building and built a modern church in the center of downtown.  Agape Church’s desire to serve the community around them is a direct reflection of the Hill’s heart for service and love of Laurel.  Agape Church is responsible for Downtown Movie Night, one of the most anticipated family events of the summer.  Without their manpower, Downtown Movie Night wouldn’t happen.  Agape Church will also provide the volunteers for this summer’s Downtown Laurel Farmers Market.  We are so incredibly thankful for the Hills and the congregation of Agape Church for their loyalty and dedication to Laurel Main Street and the revitalization of downtown Laurel!The ONE Award

 

Oak Street Salon: We’re at Your Service

Friends With a Common Dream

With over 30 years of combined experience, Oak Street Salon is the go-to house of style in the business district of Historic Downtown Laurel.  Owners, Deidra Maddox and Betty Gaudet met more than 20 years ago while working at a salon together, and have been a dynamic duo ever since. Throughout many years of working at different places in town, thOak Street Salon opened in Downtown Laureley always dreamed of owning their own business together.  Nearly three years ago, they took the plunge and opened their business on Oak Street in Downtown Laurel. Their vision for the future is simple; hold your business accountable to the reputation you have created for yourself.

At Your Service

Business owners, Deidra and Betty, take pride in the special services they provide their clients.  The pair specialize in the latest trends for cuts, colors, hair treatments, waxing, manicures, and pedicures. They also cater to their clientele by offering valet parking to those in need, booking early morning and late evening appointments, and working in walk-ins.  Oak Street Salon places true meaning behind the term “at your service.”

Oak Street Salon’s clientele spans generations.  Deidra and Betty have come to think of their clients as an extension of their own families as well.  With all the combined experience and expertise of the stylists at the salon, there is no new trend or style that Oak Street Salon can’t perfect. The key to their success is to treat everyone like family. When it comes to service, they truly believe in the benefits found in staying in touch with the younger generation, along with learning valuable lessons from the older generations as well. Oak Street Salon will always provide an open, welcoming environment for all their clientele, and look forward to their bright future downtown!

We Finally Got a Piece of the Pie

We Finally Got a Piece of the Pie

Hospitality is a staple of the South.  It’s what we’re known for.  As part of Laurel Main Street’s mission to promote economic development in the downtown area, we’ve implemented signage to help visitors find their way around town, the Laurel Welcome Center, multiple beautification projects, welcoming banners, and, most recently, lights above our streets.

This year, our beloved city stands to see more growth and tourism than ever before and it’s important that we all put our most friendly faces forward.  Tourism in the United States is a TRILLION dollar industry.  If we can become known as a place that provides excellent customer service to its tourists, our city will thrive, and continue to attract more people who will fall in love with “The City Beautiful.”  We’ve finally got a piece of that trillion dollar pie and it’s time to serve it up with a smile!

Laurel — We’re At Your Service

I’m sure the readers of this blog don’t need a lesson on the importance of first impressions, but you might know someone who does.  The fact is, each person, each point of contact, can add so much to the ‘welcoming’ experience for guests!  Each business in Laurel is a stakeholder in the tourism industry, and it’s up to you — business owners and employees — to make the most of your investment in our community.  In a recent conversation with Mayor Magee, we discussed the hospitality industry and our desire for Laurel to be known as a place that is literally “at your service.”   After all… company’s comin’!

Welcoming Beyond Words

A welcoming feeling is easy to create.  In fact, the smallest gestures can make the biggest impact.  Offer a warm welcome — Direct eye contact, a smile and sincere words.  Introduce yourself and check on your guests often.  In short, be the best version of yourself.

Unfortunately, an unwelcoming feeling is just as easy to create.  Looking down while speaking, no introduction or use of names, rushing customers out the door, or being discourteous can all contribute to the feeling of being unwelcome.  When someone feels unwelcome, it makes them uncomfortable. Guests who feel unwelcome become less inclined to spend more, come back again, or refer others. Why would they? They did not feel welcome or welcome to come back!

A warm and friendly feeling is something that definitely starts at the top and trickles down. If you are a business owner or manager, you can start by ensuring that your employees feel welcome in their own work space.  Welcome them to work each morning. Post signs in break rooms and make sure that a welcoming feeling begins each day.

Another way to be helpful to those visiting Laurel is to be aware of what’s going on around town.  You’re more likely to recommend something to a visitor if you’ve experienced it yourself, right?  So get out and explore your city.  Familiarize yourself with new businesses or points of interest.  Be ready with a suggestion for places to eat and things to see.  If you draw a blank, you can always refer them to the welcome center, or better yet, be of service to them and offer to find out.   Remember, it’s the little things that make visitors feel welcome, and sometimes, after a long car ride, the best way to be of service to someone is to point them toward a good meal.

While we have amazing architecture, stores and restaurants, the people of Laurel are the cornerstone of our community.  Residents are walking, talking advertisements for the city.  You have the opportunity to give tourists a heaping serving of southern hospitality.   How will you choose to be remembered, Laurel?

Bravo to business leaders who are already making this effort!  Keep up the good work and feel free to share your tips for a friendly and generous reception to our guests.  Creative welcomes and unwavering courtesy and congeniality will keep our guests wanting more.  When you create an unforgettable welcome, you welcome referrals, repeat business, and additional income!  The City of Laurel and the Laurel Main Street organization are at your service.  Join us!

Downtown Entrepreneur: Clairmont and Co

Have you ever wondered what it looks like to start a handmade business? Where to even begin? The story of the Clairmont’s may shed some light on the subject.

In the beginning…

A little over eight years ago, Stephen and DeShawn Clairmont had an idea for a new business. They were both busy college students with little extra time for jobs.  Since they were both the creative type, him studying architecture and her elementary education, they decided to make things to sell at trade shows on the weekends.

Little did they know that it would grow into what it is today.

img_00491

Soon after getting started, the business started taking off and there was a high demand for their products. Even stores were asking if their products were available for wholesale. When the time was right, the couple jumped at the opportunity to become a wholesaler.

img_00471 img_00501

Ready for Growth

They now have over ten employees and run their business out of the old Marcus Furniture building right here in downtown Laurel. As the business continues to grow, the couple continues to dream of where this handmade business will take them.

“We started with no experience and nothing more than our desire and God’s plan which has led us on the roller coaster ride we like to call Clairmont and Co.  Clairmont and Co has truly turned into one of our greatest blessings in life.” -DeShawn Clairmont

DeShawn and Stephen have recently opened their own show room, the Artisans Loft, in Atlanta at Americas Mart and have big plans to continue expanding their business. Look for a storefront coming sometime in 2017!

img_00421 img_00531

You can read more and see products made by Clairmont and Co here.

 

Designed for greatness: how one downtown brand became a thriving business

Creative Computer Downtown Laurel, MSIn small towns we tend to focus on the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality, but two Downtown Laurel entrepreneurs are shaking things up by focusing instead on breaking the mold of the traditional small town business.

Bo Watts and Jason Vanderslice, the minds behind Creative Computer, have built a thriving Information Technology and Web Design company right here in Downtown Laurel – and they’ve done it by throwing out convention and focusing instead on affecting people’s lives.

Erin Napier, creator of the world-renowned Lucky Luxe Couture Correspondence and Laurel native, tells her story of working with the folks at Creative Computer in this short video:

Here at home, they keep the businesses of Laurel up and running with an intense dedication to superior customer service and proactive IT solutions.

Bo tells us that, “At Creative Computer, we believe in solving problems before they happen. We realized from the beginning that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ to this business. Each client is important to us, and providing them with customized services to actually better their business is our end goal. We exist to better our clients from whatever service we offer, whether it be IT solutions, web design, or custom APPS.”

What started so many years ago as a passion and hobby for two middle school friends, has turned into one of Downtown Laurel’s most involved small businesses and a hub for creativity and employee empowerment. Through these two simple principles this business has gone on to build products and solutions that reach people all around the world, while helping to ensure the success of all Downtown Laurel businesses through local involvement and community partnership.

How can you take the principles that have helped to grow Creative Computer and use them in your own business?

1. An intense focus on creativity and empowerment

“Your staff is your business”, Bo explained during our interview. “Focus on results rather than procedure, and empower your people rather than dictate to them.”

The talented team of designers, developers and IT professionals at Creative Computer was cultivated through the unique company culture created through these principles.

10393660_857610314300168_7784742590291435247_n

“Our goal is to increasingly develop and expand Creative Computer. In doing this, not only will it provide us with more clientele, but it offers opportunities for new jobs for the right people,” Bo said.

When looking for new employees, Creative Computer seeks out those who can be trusted to take on a task and achieve results. Rather than focusing on rules and procedures, they choose instead to focus on broad directives and strategies – empowering their people to create products and solutions that solve real problems, rather than marking items off of a to-do list.

Bo tells us that it is much more important to find people with a willingness to learn and to work hard, rather than those with a pre-existing, polished skill-set.

By allowing his people to learn from their failures, to take risks and to try new ideas – Bo has created a team of “creative experts” who thrive in an environment built on innovation and empowerment.

2. A commitment to local growth

With the right people in place and an innovative selection of products and services, it seems that success would be assured. However, Bo and Jason know that by helping to build up their local business community they are ensured a stable environment to grow and the help of others along the way.

Bo says, “We chose to call downtown Laurel home because we saw its potential for greatness. A large percentage of our clientele are located downtown, which allows us to service them more promptly. Creative Computer is proud to partner with what is happening in our local community and contribute to the economic growth of downtown Laurel.”

As a LMS partner, Creative Computer contributes directly to our revitalization and restoration initiatives by providing web design, development and hosting services for http://laurelmainstreet.com. Currently, an updated responsive design is underway, and we have been able to experience the unique brand of creative expertise that is such an important part of the CC philosophy.

Creative Computer employees and leadership can also be found participating in Downtown Laurel events and community programs, and are a valuable resource to the LMS Board of Directors and committees.

IMG_2083-e1424802617149

“Being involved with our neighboring businesses and supporting one another in the revitalization and the restoration of Downtown Laurel is huge for us,” Bo says.

By partnering with LMS, Creative Computer is able to share their unique expertise and to contribute to the initiatives and projects that will ensure success for all Downtown Laurel businesses.

By focusing on creativity, innovation and local growth – they have built a business that serves as an example for all of those who are hoping to one day push the boundaries of small town business and to empower others to seek creative solutions of their own.